Real-time collaboration between
primary care and specialist physicians
is another way of boosting productivity. Medical specialists are often concentrated in urban settings. Providing
widespread access to their expertise
is therefore a persistent challenge. Patients must often travel long distances
at great expense with significant time
away from work to receive specialty
care. Today, specialist-primary care
physician interactions are possible
through a range of video-conferencing
technologies. In Buenos Aires, infectious disease specialists have begun
hosting case reviews with physicians
in rural Patagonia. Prior to this innovation, patients and physicians waited
for twice-yearly visits from a consulting specialist.
Managing patients at home can
decrease demand for emergency
and inpatient services—especially
for patients with chronic conditions.
Patients’ physical proximity to hospitals and clinics need not be a barrier
to care. “Care-at-a-distance” technologies bridge time and geography,
whether the gap is across cities or bet ween urban and rural communities.
In Buenos Aires, specialists from
the Prof. Dr. Juan P. Garrahan Pediatric Hospital consult with primary
care physicians and their patients
870 miles ( 1,400 kilometers) away at
Castro Rendon Hospital in Neuquen
In one case, a young girl received
a kidney transplant at Garrahan Pediatric Hospital, then returned home
to Neuquen Province. Follow-up care
“Care-at-a-distance” technologies bridge time
and geography, whether the gap is across cities
or between urban and rural communities.
would have usually required multiple return trips to Buenos Aires, but
her care team conducted care-at-a-distance follow-up exams. The result:
the patient’s mother saved missed
workdays, the patient remained at
home, and all involved agreed the
clinical care was equal to an in-per-son consultation.
Another example comes from Nicaragua, where U.S. surgeons travel
to treat children with cleft palates
and cleft lips. Cisco’s WebEx video
and collaboration solution enables
postsurgical care and rehabilitation
sensitive to the patient’s language,
culture and age. “All we need is a
laptop with an Internet connection,”
said one physician.
Latin America has seen noteworthy
pilot projects designed to improve
health care access during the past
decade. National governments, the
private sector and health care professionals share a responsibility to
pioneer innovative health reforms
through formal partnerships.
But several steps must be taken be-
fore such reforms are feasible. First,
legislators need to modernize regu-
latory frameworks to accelerate and
provide incentives for technology-en-
abled innovation. Second, the private
sector must incubate start-ups, pro-
mote open markets, and maximize
supply-chain relationships to nur-
ture local producers, suppliers and
distributors of advanced health-care
Finally, health care providers need
to prioritize information and communication technology investments,
train a technology-savvy workforce
and customize global models for the
local culture, language and clinical
A prescription for equitable access
requires readily available health services; efficient, effective utilization
of professional resources; consistent
quality of care; and the right care at
the right time, regardless of location.
No nation has achieved success
across all these dimensions. Latin
American health care leaders who
commit, collaborate and invest can
lead the region in pioneering approaches and programs.
Frances Dare, MBA , is director of
the Cisco Internet Business Solutions
Group (IBSG) Healthcare Practice.
Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, is vice
president and global lead of
the Healthcare Practice.